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Preview: Ivy is here

Ivy is here

Ivy is a writer. Excerpts of her work may appear?do not be alarmed.

Updated: 2018-03-06T14:10:03.524Z




I've decided to say goodbye to my blog 'Ivy is here'.

I think it's about time I do something different. I've maintained some kind of blog since I left Australia in 2002, which makes me feel positively Methuselahian.

Here's to a new chapter. I hope I can channel some of what I've learnt into other prose writing. And of course, I will keep writing poetry. I still want to see how far I can go.

My deepest gratitude to you, my friends, who've been reading all along the way. Thank you for your blogs and your words and for the sense of community you've given me in this digital space. May your writing angels, your lares and penates look after you.

And I would like to wish you the gift of patience and persistence, which is something I'd wish for myself.

Love and hugs,


Be anonymous


I leave for Seoul on the Poetry Tour this Friday, which is not very long now. It's funny how a lot of things get whittled away, especially the closer to a deadline one gets.


For a while now, I've been thinking of winding down this blog, mostly because it feels a little too exposed for my benefit and that I've been repeating myself. Often I catch myself wondering, 'Have I said that before?' And the one thing I would hate to happen with any of my writing is to get into a rut.

When I first started it, I had the idea that it might help others in the same boat as I was, who were starting out on this writing journey and didn't know where to set their compass.

I didn't realise I'd get more and more hermetic as time went on. I do enjoy setting my thoughts about writing poetry down in this virtual space but I also want to be able to do so without feeling as if I was on show. I dislike that this blog can be found on search engines but I don't think an invitation-only blog would give me that sense of freedom I know only anonymity can provide.

In the near future, my website will probably add a blog element to it, which will be more news-oriented rather than chatty, so that will be visible, but of course that's not enough, if I want to continue articulating my thoughts on poetry and writing.


That said, I deeply value the friendships I've made in this space and for that, I am grateful. The occasional conversations via comments is my highlight.

I thought I'd take the time away during this trip to gather my thoughts about what I'll do next. I'm very tempted to start afresh and be anonymous.

I just think I need to do this.


So that's it, my blog-sistential crisis.(image)



Dear Ivy,

Thank you for your charming poem.

I think you may have forgotten the comma between Hudson and Thames?

Add chocolate to the Rhine, Hudson Thames and Neckar,
make a cappuccino for Lake Erie,
and kopi tubruk for Asia, with a solid lump of sugar
to dissolve slowly.

I'll keep you up to date with publication dates etc - I have had so many submissions I've turned into a rejection-acceptance machine. Hence the efficient reply:-) We were not expecting to go to print before Dec at earliest. We don't need first rights, so you are free to publish your poem elsewhere too.
Very quick turnaround. Drafted the poem on 1 May, finished and emailed it on 2 May, received their response on 4th May. Whew!

And here's a sortie from Operation: Act Normal. Handwritten notes on the paper slip italicised, editor's emphasis in bold:
Dear Ivy
Thank you for letting us see your work. I'm very sorry that we can't help you. And I apologise for not replying personally to you, but we receive about 100 books to consider each week as well as numerous letters offering manuscripts. Most of these receive a "straight" rejection slip but I prefer to send this brief explanation to writers of high quality work.

Our press now publishes over 30 poets, and we need to keep up with their collective output. This won't be possible if we take on too many new authors, so we are only able to pursue publication in very few cases. The fact that I can't respond positively to your submission is no reflection on its quality [*I do know The Monkey's Mask and thought the sample showed you'd picked up on that model very effectively.] — it's more to do with the restrictions of poetry publishing *(now even more restricted with the latest Arts Council cuts.). However, our press is continuing to introduce new poets, and we're still bringing out first collections every year as well as editions introducing major poets from overseas and anthologies aimed at broadening the readership of contemporary poetry. We publish around 3 new books of poetry a year, and it's not possible for us to do more than that.

Best wishes
Lovely. I especially like the first handwritten bit, as if I had done well on an assignment. I wonder if the editor has ever been a teacher?

Anyway, I am charmed. I have sent my work to this press once before and this is the first time I have received this slip. I must be doing something right.

Feels like climbing a ladder most days. For the longest time, the ladder is greased and slippery and you go down down down you go. But very occasionally, the rungs are wide and accommodating, the handholds gilded and warm.(image)

Stillness, a quiet room


On the train back from London, I remembered a time during this visit when I handed a friend a journal containing a poem with a dedication to her.

As she read the poem right then, right there in the pub, I felt tinged with envy. I couldn't do that now, don't know if I ever knew how to read a poem and give it attention properly without being annoyed by the external world. I don't know how to switch off with a poem. Novels, no problem. Short stories, no worries.

With poems, I feel like I owe them something more of me. So I can't do it. If someone gives me a poem to read and digest out in public and I take it, well, I'm probably not reading it. I'm skimming it, making mm-hm noises. I can probably even say the odd insightful idea or two about it but I wouldn't have swallowed it and embodied it, the kind of attention I think a good poem deserves to get.

Ideally, I need stillness, a quiet room.(image)

30 April


Excerpt from 'Empress':
on her thighs, a fecund gleaming


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Huzzah! 'Tis done. Made it another year. See you again in 2012, fellow NaPoWriMoers. Here's a song to sing us out.(image)

29 April


Excerpt from 'Terzanelle for Veronica Sawyer':
I was thinking more along the lines of slitting Heather Duke's wrists

open, making it look like suicide.
So, should I just whip it out, or...?
Now that you’re dead, what are you gonna do with your life?
It’s your turn, Heather.

Preparations are ramping up for my Cordite Asialink Poetry Tour in Seoul, which also means increased requests for poems. Thank goodness for the NaPoWriMo-ing I've done for the last few years. I think the discipline has helped loosen me up, though that idea seems contradictory.

This poem-a-day-for-a-month caper is an annual reminder to me to just have fun in the writing, be silly, find joy [yes, joy] in creation. I love the seriousness of writing poetry, the attention, the sense of pitting myself against the white wall of blank mocking but I also like the sense of relaxing into an art-form in which I am somewhat limber and can twirl in, with a freedom to make funny shapes and funny faces.

And really, thinking about it, I know it has helped me with being able to write a longer poem. Because I've had the practice. I know how to do it again because I've done it before.

While it's hard and a wrench sometimes, I've grown to love surrendering to the juggernaut that demands I feed the beast words, words and more words, all I have.

Hello, beast. I know you.(image)

28 April


Excerpt from 'Sororal twins':
breathing, air mingling like a kiss
light a veil on our faces, our lips
we gaze at ourselves in the mirror
Narcissus’s sisters caught in the silver
our dresses trapping us, sheets of it

Two of my Museum of Welsh Life poems will soon appear on Cordite Poetry Review. I will be in London next week to visit friends. I have a reading in Cardiff upon my return. And I have my plane ticket to Korea! Whee!

All good news.(image)

27 April


Excerpt from 'Clone':
The ribs of her, striking out pale lines
for writing upon her back, tempting me.

Wow, my Cordite Korea poetry tour is coming soon! So hard to believe. Haven't even thought about what to pack. A wheatsheaf of poems will be in the suitcase, though. Definitely.(image)

26 April


dandelion puff
spinning away in the wind
smallest umbrella

How does that saying go? If you want something done, ask a busy person. Well, this Easter break is kicking my butt. In relaxing, I have let the writing get lax.

Ah, me.(image)

25 April


Excerpt from 'Tumbling':
                                  What was learnt and what was taught
fails to keep these bellies full. Eat the stew, eat the air,
mail this green grass blade to Dover. Wolf or rabbit: beware.

Poetry packets printed, all ready for tomorrow's posting. One day, a book will come.(image)

24 April


Excerpt from 'The Museum of Inexplicable History':

For six months I arranged museum dioramas; in placards explained the scenes; led bewildered tourists through small rooms. The pungent oranges and bright, green wings, ebony mocha okay choking down coffees, teas, distant gazes. Now I am safe in the deep V of a weekday, cradled like a silkworm, suspended, watching the scene below.

It is very frustrating, not knowing where to send Act Normal. There are things I would like to happen for this book, many of which I know are unlikely to come to pass, but still, I have my minimum requirements that must be fulfilled and it will take time to find the right home for my sweet dark monstrous book.

I just want to know where it'll finally end up so I can send it there already and not have to go through the rigmarole. But I guess everybody in my position must do this dance. No shortcuts, no exemptions, no yellow brick road [well, at least not yet?].

Don't really know what I'm saying. Need more sleep.(image)

23 April


Excerpt from 'Cento Quattro':
in our hearts, learn to petrify it so,
Because I killed a snake the day she was born.
A dog’s skull is slightly thicker than our own.

Into the final stretch of NaPoWriMo — whee! The end is nigh!


After some thinking, I have a better sense of what I need to do for one of the papers I have to write for my trip to Korea. It's about time, I say! Whew.


There may be room for one more cento.(image)

22 April


Excerpt from 'Cento Très Villanelle':
Were the scissors impulsive or inevitable?
My advice to young people is to like hats but not love them.
The trick is to make it personal:
I have played tennis with so many animals

These are getting weirder and weirder. I like that.

I've also drafted a poem for tomorrow, which should give me some breathing space this weekend. Whew!(image)

21 April


Excerpt from 'Cento':
not April and the magnolias
The trick is to make it personal:
I'm drunk. I stand on the porch in my bathrobe
in the glaring white gap
My own bags were full of salt, which made them shifty, hard to lift.

The meeting went well, I thought. The editor was very kind with praise and congratulations on the manuscript, while also expressing delighted surprise at its content, style, scope, almost everything it seems.

And lunch was quite delicious, too. What a treat! I'm not used to that kind of attention. Lovely.(image)

20 April


I look above me
a pair of swans' silhouettes
wings disturb the peace

What I like about NaPoWriMo is that it provides me an excellent opportunity to play, to experiment, to just mess about and see what I can do, see what works, refine my eye and ear and sense of what seems right for a poem. If it doesn't make sense, so be it. As long as it satisfies the poem's sole criterion of absolute fidelity, that's good enough for me.(image)

19 April


Excerpt from 'Courtship':
down the alley she walks with him
heels beating time on the pavement
even as these walls rise around them
a brick crevasse, a gorge of silence

and their antlike progress

A warm welcome to my Poets Rally visitors. I'm pleased to be among those selected.

Kindly note that, during NaPoWriMo, my poems only last a day, after which I leave a fragment for that day's post. Thanks for taking the time to look around. You sure are lovely folks!


I'm meeting with the editor of a press tomorrow but I think it'll be mostly talk about what won't happen rather than what will with this manuscript. Still, it'll be a lovely thing and I'm looking forward to a nice lunch.

All this does seem uncommonly fast, though, especially in comparison to Mortal's journey. Took me years to get to this stage, before any sort of decision-maker would even respond with more than a form letter.

I'm so glad for Mortal, in more ways than one. It taught me a lot, giving me confidence and self-knowledge that I can sustain a larger work and that I have progressed, too, with my writing, and become more aware and mindful about what works and what doesn't.

Plus, I think it helped the writing of this second book that I was a bit obsessed about my subject matter. I'm glad I took the time to get Act Normal as polished as I could make it [well, it certainly didn't hurt! That's my thinking...].

The email from this editor was very heartening and complimentary, which is always nice to read, of course. This might be a lucky little second book. Still, I'm keeping any high expectations in check. My best hope from this meeting is to receive more useful feedback on the second ms. Cross fingers it all works out.(image)

18 April


Excerpt from 'Tusk and wing':
I touch her far fur, her picked cheetah, and we go, an entangled sprawl. Such hybrid, misshapen, beasts of spawn! Setting off, stranger, a tremulous cloud, gold columns collapsing down the long hall of morning.

Whew! How late am I with this? I'll be paying for it tomorrow, which is already today.


Well, I've started to draft a project description for a future residency, which I can use to procrastinate with instead of writing what I'm supposed to be writing. It's always the way with me. In this instance, however, I will be distracting myself with something that will actually be useful and beneficial. Hurray for not totally inane diversions!(image)

17 April


Excerpt from 'Hellingley':
I am the stung being in this room,
the sole white soul, the wave unavoidable.
Roof like a spat sea, a leviathan’s ribs
curving above me. I love to float, dirty strange,
carried aloft.

I am exhausted from running my 5km and then more running all over the place. Perhaps I'll be more talkative tomorrow. For now, an early night.(image)

16 April


Excerpt from 'Things I have pulled from my eyes':
• a unicorn
• the Chrysler Building

Sometimes I wish I could read poetry books in the same way I enjoy reading novels. But poetry has a different valency for me now and probably always will be so. I just can't relax into it but must always analyse, consider, weigh it up.

That's not to say there's no pleasure in it any more, just that it's likely to be rare and hard-won.(image)

15 April


Excerpt from 'Song (draft)':
like a smoky heart that masks her face
an open book that bears no trace of truth

Okay, I'm already envisioning this song's music video, maybe as an 80s power ballad, maybe sung by Bonnie Tyler? With a smoke machine and lit from behind, of course.

I think NaPoWriMo's heavy creative fumes have gotten to me. Hee!


I have never written lyrics before. Clearly. Although I did begin a collaboration with a musician once. He started using one of my poems to write a song. It never went anywhere, though.

Well, tomorrow's another NaPoWriMo day. I shall press onward.


Operation: Act Normal's early incursions have been promising, I must say. I've already heard positive noises coming from the direction of a publisher.

No contract, and such a manifestation is quite unlikely any time soon, but if this publisher is saying the manuscript looks good... does one dare hope that another will agree and swoop down and scoop it up?(image)

14 April


Saturday picnic
under spreading black branches
petals garnish my meal

Almost at the NaPoWriMo midway point... huzzah!

So my query letters are off and away. Fly, my pretties! Come back with good news.

I think I'm going to run out of time. And look, it's almost midnight.(image)

13 April


Excerpt from 'The secret sister':
In a minute, she was younger by a year. You could see it, like taking a watch pin between finger and thumb and winding it backwards.

I actually started a different poem to this one but I could tell it wasn't going anywhere. I need to rethink that poem's focus somehow. I think I'm preoccupied 'cos I have those papers to write and common sense dictates I should get started on it and finish it quickly, that I don't have as much time as I think I do.

Why am I such a procrastinator?(image)

12 April


Excerpt from 'I will carry your harrow':
barefoot we will be greeted
smiled upon in the white hospital
I will say goodbye to you
take your harrow home

Have to write two papers for my poetry tour to Korea, one to be about myself. Whatever shall I say?

Also been looking for potential presses for Act Normal. It's currently under consideration by a publisher, as well as entered into a competition. I know it's a fool's errand but ever the optimist am I. Maybe I should put that in my paper.

So I've readied two query packets and will send out tomorrow, hopefully. I need more stamps. I almost miss the days when such poetry transactions needed the post office but in a lot of ways, I much prefer email. That's because I lack sufficient patience, though ministering to my poems has taught me the virtue of it. Still, I like instant gratification. What's that about?(image)

11 April


Excerpt from 'Burning season':
now it is the end of days
of weeks of hunger
of flesh devouring itself for sustenance
cold nights tightening its grip
smoke choking trees

I think that poem made sense. It's rather late now and I just banged it out but I crafted it as carefully as I could, given the circumstances. I'm sure I can wrestle with it some more in the morning.

Crafted a cover letter for sending to potential publishers. It actually sounds all right. Intriguing. Enticing. Hopefully, it'll make 'em say, 'Send us the rest.'

Well, the cover letter was easy compared to selecting the sample poems. Dearie me. What a hardship.

Trying to settle a bet: is peanut butter sweet or savoury?(image)

10 April


Excerpt from 'Beyond all that is silence':
until every corpuscle is gone

Had an interesting conversation with someone who's read Mortal and who herself survived breast cancer, saying how she found it interesting to read it as an insight into the daughter's point of view. She herself has daughters, one who seemed to have suffered no ill-effects [at least outwardly], while the other would break down during class.

I think both reactions are valid and understandable, though it is hard to know for sure. Such things are like icebergs.(image)